After dealing with all the frustration, all the close calls, all the heartache and even a chorus of boos last season, the Indiana coach has spent this offseason plotting a new course. He’s poring through old films, breaking down tape from Connecticut’s national championship team and going back to his roots to fix the Hoosiers’ problems.
"Depth is not numbers, depth is consistency and we didn’t have enough consistency," Crean said Tuesday when reflecting on last season’s troubles. "You know what, certain things last year, I’d have booed me, too, I really would because we were trying to get guys to find some kind of consistency on the court and we didn’t have enough. I don’t know where it’s going to be this year, but I like the upside of it."
The Hoosiers are in the midst of a major overhaul — only some of which has been by choice.
Indiana has eight new players and a new assistant coach this season in hopes of turning around a 17-15 record that left them out of the postseason. And after three underclassmen were selected in the NBA’s top 10 draft picks over the past two years, the Hoosiers now lack a dominant big man to run their offense through.
So Crean has decided to play small-ball. This rebuilding project centers around junior point guard Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell and sophomores Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams, three players Crean credited with getting stronger and more refined since a season-ending loss to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament.
The Hoosiers have a new cast of 3-point shooters, too, starting with freshman guard James Blackmon Jr., the high-scoring guard who is the son of the former Kentucky basketball star.
Crean has also been dissecting old films from Louisville, Marquette, Villanova and Europe in addition to last year’s footage of UConn to figure out how they won with smaller lineups. His conclusion: Play faster, space the court and take advantage of speed and depth to create more fast-break chances.
But he’s still installing the system, meaning the Hoosiers won’t get their first real glimpse of how it will work until an early August trip to Montreal. Indiana is scheduled to play five games in six days.
"What we’re going to learn over there, I don’t know," Crean said. "We’re going to go through some tough days. I mean we’re not going over there and winning all those games. No one’s walking over there and saying we’ve got to be 5-0 to be a success. We’ve got to get better every day, to learn how to have that chemistry and have that traction from the chemistry and have some two-way players that don’t get their head down when things aren’t going well."
Will that be the answer to the Hoosiers’ struggles?
"We’re growing," Crean said. "Where it leads, I’m just not sure yet because of the youth of it. But we’re expecting an awful lot out of juniors and a couple of sophomores when it comes to leadership on this team."
Sophomore forward Collin Hartman will not play in Montreal and has been limited during summer workouts after tearing the ACL in his right knee in March.